Quotations by Hand, Learned


Heretics have been hated from the beginning of recorded time; they have been ostracized, exiled, tortured, maimed, and butchered; but it has generally proved impossible to smother them; and when it has not, the society that has succeeded has always declined.

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
“A Fanfare for Prometheus,” Address before the American Jewish Committee (29 Jan 1955)
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I believe that that community is already in process of dissolution where each man begins to eye his neighbor as a possible enemy, where non-conformity with the accepted creed, political as well as religious, is a mark of disaffection; where denunciation, without specification or backing, takes the place of evidence; where orthodoxy chokes freedom of dissent; where faith in the eventual supremacy of rason has become so timid that weare not enter our convictions into the open lis, to win or lose. Such fears as these are a solvent which can eat out the cement that binds the stones together; they may in the end subject us to a despotism as evil as any that we dread; and they can be allayed only in so far as we refuse to proceed on suspicion, and trust one another until we have tangible ground for misgiving,

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
“A Plea for the Open Mind and Free Discussion,” Address to University of the State of New York (24 Oct 1952)
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I shall ask no more than that you agree with Dean Inge that even though counting heads is not an ideal way to govern, at least it beats breaking them.

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
“Democracy: Its Presumptions and Realities” (1932)
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Life is made up of a series of judgments on insufficient data, and if we waited to run down all our doubts, it would flow past us.

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
“On Receiving an Honorary Degree” (1939)
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Our dangers, as it seems to me, are not from the outrageous but from the conforming; not from those who rarely and under the lurid glare of obloquy upset our moral complaisance, or shock us with unaccustomed conduct, but from those, the mass of us, who take their virtues and their tastes, like their shirts and their furniture, from the limited patterns which the market offers.

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
“The Preservation of Personality” (2 Jun. 1927)
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The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the mind of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned but never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.

Hand - spirit of liberty - wist_info quote

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
“The Spirit of Liberty,” speech, “I Am an American Day,” New York (21 May 1941)
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What is this liberty that must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not the freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check on their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few — as we have learned to our sorrow.

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
“The Spirit of Liberty,” speech, “I Am an American Day,” New York (21 May 1941)
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There is no surer way to misread any document than to read it literally. … As nearly as we can, we must put ourselves in the place of those who uttered the words, and try to divine how they would have dealt with the unforeseen situation; and, although their words are by far the most decisive evidence of what they would have done, they are by no means final.

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
Giuseppe v. Walling (1944)
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“I beseech ye in the bowels of Christ, think that ye may be mistaken.” I should like to have that written over the portals of every church, every school, and every courthouse, and, may I say, of every legislative body in the United States. I should like to have every court begin, “I beseech ye in the bowels of Christ, I think we may be mistaken.”

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
Morals in Public Life (1951)

Quoting Oliver Cromwell's letter to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (Aug 1650)
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In the end it is worse to suppress dissent than to run the risk of heresy.

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
Oliver Wendell Holmes Lecture, Harvard (1958)
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Life is made up of constant calls to action, and we seldom have time for more than hastily contrived answers.

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
Speech in New York (27 Jan 1952)
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I had rather take my chance that some traitors will escape detection than spread abroad a spirit of general suspicion and distrust, which accepts rumor and gossip in place of undismayed and unintimidated inquiry.

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
Speech to Board of Regents, USNY (24 Oct 1952)
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If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou shalt not ration justice.

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
Speech to the NY Legal Aid Society (16 Feb 1951)
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I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it.

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
Speech, “I Am an American Day,” New York (21 May 1941)

http://www.criminaljustice.org/public.nsf/ENews/2002e67?opendocument
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